Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New volcano probes: Journey to the center of the Earth?

Super-heat-resistant radio transmitters could soon be dropped into volcanoes to provide early warnings of eruptions. Conventional electronics are made with silicon, but such technology fails to function at about 660 degrees F. The new electronics are made of silicon carbide, and can theoretically withstand up to 1,650 degrees F, the kind of heat found inside jet engines. The researchers are now working to integrate components made from the silicon-carbon compound into devices about the size of an iPhone. Scientists could drop such gadgets into the depths of the earth to help measure subtle changes in the levels of key volcanic gases, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. They could then wirelessly feed back real-time data to the surface, providing vital details regarding volcanic activity and potential eruptions.

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